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Friday, July 22, 2016

A Poem For A Friend's Painting

On, 25 Jun 2016, an italki friend, Julius Ku sent me a marvellous Chinese painting that he did and asked me to pen a classical poem for him to complete his work. Below is the version that appeals to me most.

After studying the painting for awhile, I came up with a draft of to describe the painting. I liked the way how to boats are depicted simply.

山雲接海迎小舟 The cloudy mountains receive the ocean and welcoming the little boats.
松峭参天拜          Pine cliffs bowing to heaven.

With this idea, I can take my time to work out the mechanics in composing a classical Chinese poem. The idea was to compare human life with the seemingly eternal mountains and heavens. After much doodling, I came up with the following,

松冠峭壁参蒼天       Pine trees crowning the cliffs paying respect to heaven
人生蜉朝一日過       Life is like a mayfly day
自然依舊待/侍千秋 As nature remains waiting/serving for a thousand autumns.

I was stuck and had to fallow my mind. The next day, as I explored different words and rhyming schemes, a different version materialized,

千山白雲小舟臨/逢          White clouds of a thousand mountains, the little boats arrive/meet
松冠峭壁/敬蒼天/蒼天敬 Sheer cliffs crowned in pines pay respect to the vastness of heaven
桃源何處曾一見               Where had I once seen the source of peach (paradise)
迷離境界在水邊/              The blurry realm (of the paradise) is at the water's edge/
無意不識入仙境               Unintentionally and unknowingly, I stumbled into the fairyland.

Although the result is solidifying, I still think the poem is too contrite; words not too elegant and the flow of sounds not too smooth. 


1. Pine trees are longevity symbols but still has an end. The sky doesn't.

2. The peach source is an allusion to a story when a fisherman inadvertently stumbled into paradise filled with blossoming peach trees. He spent a day there before returning home. However, he could not find his way back the next day. This is a frequent theme in Classical Chinese poems.

I always have said -- "give oneself a good night's rest and things will look better the next day". Sure enough, after my daily jog, I came up with this:

千山白雲碧/滄/海迎 White clouds from the thousand mountains welcome the blue/cold ocean
松冠峭壁青天敬        Sheer cliffs crowned in pine trees paying respect to the green sky
桃源此處曾一見        The peach source is here where I saw once
心空愰惚入仙境        My heart is empty and suddenly the fairyland I entered.

Being very satisfied with this version, I stopped the fine tuning. However, five days later, I used this poem to practise my brush writing. As I wrote, fresh ideas and words came into mind. This is the final version as one can go on eternally fine tuning things...

千山白雲滄海迎, White clouds from a thousand peaks welcoming the vast ocean,
松冠峭壁参天敬. Sheer cliffs crowned in pines paying respect to heaven.
桃源此處曾一會, This is the place where Paradise I once had been,
必是心愰入仙境. Must be in my absent-mindedness that I stumbled into the immortal's realm.

Friday, July 22, 2016

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